Late yesterday afternoon, our area of Hampton Roads got pounded by a quickly moving storm that overtook us in a flash. One minute it seemed like a perfectly lovely day, a moment later, angry black clouds moved in, and in just minutes torrents of rain sliced the silence, and the winds whipped up to 73 miles per hour, ripping trees apart and hurling huge branches several houses away. Our house made it through with some damage to our front gutter but was otherwise unscathed. The neighbors on either side of us were not so lucky. A huge part of what had been a lovely and graceful river birch a few houses down had damaged the roof and completely torn down the gutter of the house on one side of us. On the other, a shutter was torn off, maybe by the branch whizzing by like a missile, or perhaps it was just the wind.
When it was finally safe to venture out, neighbors emerged to survey the damage. Much to my chagrin, the first words I heard from one neighbor were acrimonious words directed at the owners of the birch. They were angry because they felt the tree was a menace and should have been taken down. The owners of the birch had gone to great expense to have this tree pruned about a year or so ago and I thought the tree enriched the appearance of our side of the street. It matters not what I think. But it does matter what was said.
My husband and I started picking up pieces of the tree in our yard and moving them to a pile in the street. “Leave them there,” commanded another neighbor. “It was from their tree. Let them pick up the mess.” My husband and I looked at each other. Was this guy for real? This was no one’s fault; it was an act of nature. We weren’t in Texas anymore! “It’s not a problem,” my husband said as he kept piling up the debris. “It’s the neighborly thing to do.”
The young neighbor whose tree it was came out and worked hard to remove the branches from his neighbors’ yards while those few neighbors around us stood and watched. When all the limbs were heaped in a pile on the curb, this young neighbor said to my husband and me, “Thanks for all your help.” I replied in a loud voice, “Of course. That’s what good neighbors do.”